PLANT FOSSIL ATLAS from (Pennsylvanian) CARBONIFEROUS AGE FOUND in Central Appalachian Coalfields
153 pages

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This book is a picture guide to fossil plants and a few fossil marine organisms found in close association with the coal measures in the central Appalachian region. The fossils are sorted by groups and the specimens sampling site locations are listed by coal seam horizon and geographic location. Short descriptions of each group of fossil types are provided. This publication has been designed with the amateur (rock hound) as well as a virtual guide for the more advanced collectors. Explanation of the different groups of plants in as close to layman’s terms as possible.



Publié par
Date de parution 08 septembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781947938021
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 8 Mo

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PLANT FOSSIL ATLAS from (Pennsylvanian) CARBONIFEROUS AGE FOUND in Central Appalachian Coalfields
Thomas F. McLoughlin
Geologist, M.S.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas F. McLoughlin.

Paperback: 978-1-947938-01-4
eBook: 978-1-947938-02-1

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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Printed in the United States of America

Table of Contents
Collecting Plant Fossils
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Ancient Mangrove-Like Plant
Chapter 4
Ancient Tree Trunks
Chapter 5
Ancient Root Systems
Chapter 6
Ancient Relative of the “Horsetail”
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Appendix A

Pennsylvanian coal swamp vegetation reconstruction, a composite of many plant types growing in and around the swamp (Kukuk, 1938).

T his book could not have been completed without the dedicated help of Cortland F. Eble, Ph.D., and Alton Dooley, who are paleontologists with the Kentucky Geological Survey in Lexington, Kentucky, and the Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, Virginia, respectively. They helped edit the manuscript. Assistance in the classification of many of the fern fossils was given by Dr. Shusheng Hu, who is a paleobotanist and Collections Manager, Division of Paleobotany at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut.
I also want to thank my wife, Beth, for her patience and tolerance for the numerous boxes of fossil specimens in our home. She was very relieved when I donated the collection to the Museum of Natural History.
All of the fossils listed in the plates were collected by and photographed by the author except as noted.

I have spent the last twenty-seven-plus years in and around the bituminous coal mines of southwestern Virginia. When coal miners learn I am a geologist, the most popular question has been “what are the kinds of fossils we see in a mine roof?” I give my best reply, but it is difficult to relate to them that the plant impressions represent vegetation that grew in peat-forming swamps millions of years ago. Most people recognize the fern-like fossils, but have been confused about the identity of a portion of tree root versus the tree itself. Many believe that the fossils are not those of ancient vegetation, but instead are the preserved remains of fish or reptiles.
I became interested in geology because of these fossils. It is the goal of this publication to share my accumulated experience in the area of basic paleobotany and furnish a pictorial guide to the identification of the more common Carboniferous-age plant fossils from the coal fields of Virginia. Those especially targeted are the rock hounds and aspiring geologists of all ages.
In 1977, I received my Bachelor of science degree from Morehead State University (MSU) in Morehead, Kentucky. In the spring of 1980, I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in Richmond, Kentucky, with a Master of science degree in geology.
During those years, the majority of my geologic experiences centered on the geologic aspects of underground coal mine roof stability by benefit of U.S. Bureau of Mines contracts awarded to a professor at MSU, Dr. David K. Hylbert. I owe a large part of my success as a geologist to Dr. Hylbert; Dr. Harry Hoge, my thesis adviser at EKU; and Dr. Jules DuBar, my paleontology professor while I was at MSU. Therefore, I wish to dedicate this publication to them as thanks for their guidance and inspiration.

F ossils have excited people for a long time, but for about 400 years, the term was used to describe almost anything that looked like it had organic origins and was dug up from the earth. “Fossil” is defined by paleontologists as any object that represents the presence of a former life, as the term also applies to the preservation of various trace fossils such as animal trackways and coprolites (fecal pellets). By convention, use of the term is generally restricted to remains that are older than 10,000 years.
The study of fossilized plant remains is called paleobotany. Understanding how plants inhabited the earth throughout geologic time allows the paleobotanist to begin to piece together the history of the plant kingdom. Fossil plants come in a variety of shapes and sizes that vary throughout geologic time. Examining and identifying species that lived millions of years ago allows us to glimpse into ecological, and therefore, evolutionary occurrences. Generally, the preservation of an organism requires a rapid burial in sediment, usually clay (mud), silt, or fine grained sand, before the soft body portions completely decay or are fragmented to such an extent that it cannot be identified as a specific type of organism. Even after preservation, few fossils are discovered and collected before weathering and erosion destroy the rocks that carry them.
Fossil plants can be preserved in a variety of ways. Most commonly, the shape of the plant is impressed into the sediment. During this process, plant material falls into the water, becomes water-logged, sinks to the bottom of the body of water, and becomes surrounded and covered by sediments. Slowly, under the increasing weight of the additional sediments, water and air are pressed out until only plant material remains. The flattened plant part appears as a fossil compression on one layer of the strata, while the other side contains the impressed counterpart or “impression.”
Frequently root systems, trunks, and limbs in the proper growing position of plants become engulfed by sediments during floods when streams and rivers overflow their banks or shift their courses. Sediment partially or completely replaces decaying plant (organic) material so that the walls of the resulting cavity (or mold) form with exact details. Standing tree or trunk casts that were buried in this fashion are called “kettle bottoms” or “stove pipes” by the mining industry because of the flared or bowl shape at the base and upward taper.
Often as the depth of burial increases, heat and pressure builds causing the gradual loss of original organic tissue to the extent that only a layer of carbonaceous material (coal) remains, a process known as carbonization. Often these fossils are the most spectacular and “pretty,” since even the most delicate details of leaves, barks of trees, and branches are preserved in an almost life-like fashion. Veins and filaments stand out in stark relief in these fossil examples. This is the typical type of preservation found in coal seams.
If the tree became buried in sediment and water percolated through the ground, then each individual cell of the organism might be replaced by dissolved minerals including silica (quartz or jasper), calcium carbonate (calcite), or iron magnesium carbonate (ironstone). This would result in petrifaction of the organism.
The Appalachian region of the United States is full of plant fossils that represent a thriving ecosystem during the Carboniferous period (360 to 286 million years ago); this guide focuses on the most wide-spread and commonly found flora of that period. Unique water chemistry and a tropical climate created extensive coal swamps in the Appalachian Mountains; under these conditions it is very rare to find the hard parts of animals because they were not preserved well. Some shell fossils of brackish water to shallow marine brachiopods are sometimes locally abundant in certain rock units (e.g., the Magoffin Beds in the Wise Formation) in the tristate region (Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky). A few brachiopods, pelecyepods, and nautiloids associated with the plant fossils were also collected, but these are very small and easily overlooked by the untrained eye. Even though there are numerous plant fossils to be found, these most likely represent only a small fraction of the abundant flora that existed because plants are so susceptible to decay.
The majority of the specimens pictured in this publication were collected from coal mines in southwestern Virginia. Of the numerous coal seams that are mined in Virginia, there are a few that had special conditions conducive to optimum preservation. These include the Jawbone, Lower Banner, Upper Banner, Splashdam, Kennedy, Hagy, and Taggart seams; all of these seams are Pennsylvanian in age (a standard geologic time scale is shown in figure 1). The locations of the collection sites are listed in Appendix A.
Throughout, there are comparisons made between fossil and present-day plants to aid in the interpretation of structures observed in the extinct plants. Several plants found living today are also preserved as fossils and show few little changes in morphology (appe

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